Even with expansion, Pac-10 could eliminate the need for a title game

Expansion talk in the Pac-10 continues to heat up, as ESPN.com reports that Colorado has accepted an invitation to join the conference. Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech should receive invites as well, while Nebraska is likely heading to the Big Ten.

Despite adding more teams, the Pac-10 could eliminate the need for a conference championship game by pushing for two automatic bids to the BCS.

The coach said it’s possible the Pac-16 would push for two automatic bids to the BCS, one for each division champion. That potential bonanza could open the possibility of the two division champs from one league playing for the national title, and it would eliminate the need for a conference championship game.

“The Pac-10 doesn’t believe in a championship game,” the coach said. “And coaches in the Big 12 don’t like it anyway.”

Does anyone else think that it’s ridiculous to have 16 teams play in one conference but no championship game? It’s amazing how these schools manage to eliminate playoff-like games at all costs, even though that’s the structure that most fans want.

Fans want to see the best teams play each other, whether it’s in a conference title game or a playoff format in the postseason. But clearly the BCS and the schools themselves don’t want to breed head-to-head competition. They’re fine with crowning a champion based on record and moving on. As long as they can increase revenue, then who cares about the fans, right? I would be shocked if the Big Ten didn’t try to follow in the footsteps of the Pac-10 and figure out a way to avoid a conference championship game themselves.

Another interesting takeaway from the article is that expansion might not happen for another two years. So even though Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma would be joining other conferences in 2012, they’d still play in the Big 12 for the next two seasons. How awkward.

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Pac-10 expansion coming soon?

The Pac-10 is now one step closer to expanding and possibly devouring the Big 12, as commissioner Larry Scott announced on the final day of the conference meetings on Sunday that university presidents and chancellors have given him the authority he needs to expand the Pac-10.

From ESPN.com:

“What direction that process takes still could go in different directions, everything from remaining as we are as a Pac-10 that’s got some very bright days ahead of it to a bigger conference footprint,” Scott said. “I have the authority to take it in different directions, depending on various scenarios and discussions we’re going to have.”

Scott wouldn’t give any timeframe for expansion talks — other than to reiterate that the deadline is the end of this year — or discuss specific schools. However, it sounds as if he will aggressively court some of the biggest names in college sports, including Texas. The Big 12 is in danger of collapsing and could provide the Pac-10 with six new teams or more.

The Big 12 reportedly gave Missouri and Nebraska an ultimatum of Friday to decide if they will remain in the Big 12. If those schools leave, the Pac-10 could be strategically situated to gobble up Big 12 teams looking for bigger opportunities, including Texas. The most widely discussed scenario has Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado joining the Pac-10. There was some indication Sunday that Baylor could replace Colorado under pressure from the Texas Legislature.

If the Big 12 largely stays intact but is under the umbrella of the Pac-10, then expansion wouldn’t be a bad thing. Because then you keep some of the key rivalries (Texas vs. Oklahoma, Texas vs. Texas A&M, Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State) in place, but introduce a broader spectrum of games (i.e. Texas vs. USC). True Big 12 fans will lose out on seeing Nebraska and Missouri play Texas and Oklahoma every year, but at least the majority of the conference wouldn’t be dismantled. (Much like if Texas goes to the SEC or Pac-10, while Texas A&M and whomever else heads to the SEC, which has already been discussed.)

That said, if the Big 12 falls apart and most of these programs split up, then it’s hard to argue for expansion. I discussed this topic more last week, but the words “rivalries” and “tradition” will mean nothing if teams like Texas and Texas A&M head to different conferences. College football was built on rivalries and tradition and I think school presidents and athletic directors should strive to keep that in mind.

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No. 12 Oklahoma State hangs on vs. Colorado

Without quarterback Zac Robinson (concussion), No. 12 Oklahoma State was almost victims of the first big upset of Week 12.

The Cowboys needed a fourth quarter touchdown reception by Justin Blackmon from Brandon Weeden and two big defensive stops to beat Colorado, 31-28 on Thursday night.

Turnovers almost doomed OK State. They lost three fumbles on the night (two on muffed punts) and junior quarterback Alex Cate was also intercepted to give the Buffalos scoring opportunities the entire night.

Cate struggled to make an impact while starting in place of the injured Robinson. In fact, he didn’t complete a pass and finished 0-for-9 with the one interception. The sophomore Weeden had to come in and rescue the sputtering Cowboy offense, which he successfully did by completing 10-of-15 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Of course, OK State’s offense got plenty of production out of senior running back Keith Toston, who compiled 170 yards with one touchdown on 30 carries. On the night, the Cowboys rushed for 232 yards and held Colorado to just 13 yards on the ground.

With this win, Oklahoma State keeps its slim hopes alive in the Big 12 South. The Cowboys would need to beat Oklahoma next week and have Texas (6-0) lose both its remaining games in order to leapfrog the Longhorns in the standings. But chances are Texas won’t slip up against a struggling Kansas, which has lost five in a row and whose head coach is facing allegations of player abuse.

Tampa Bay is no longer Melrose’s place

A coaching change that occurred over the weekend that made me scratch my head. The Tampa Bay Lightning fired Barry Melrose after only four months on the job and replaced him on an interim basis with Rick Tocchet.

Last summer, the franchise was purchased by a Hollywood movie management group last summer that gained success by producing the Saw franchise. Their main acquisition of the off-season was hiring Melrose to lead the team back into Stanley Cup contention, but the Lightning have been plagued by inconsistent and lackluster play all season.

In his press release, Lightning general manager Brian Lawton felt a coaching change was needed due to concerns about what direction the team was headed under Melrose. The team is built with an explosive offense featuring high-scoring forwards but have netted a league-worst 33 goals thus far this season and are currently floundering in 13th place of a 15-team Eastern Conference. Also, Lawton was displeased with the lack of playing time given to the league’s 2008 #1-overall draft choice Steven Stamkos, who was averaging a little over 11 minutes of ice-time under Melrose and was recently taken off the power-play unit. Still, to be judged after 16 games is a harsh reality for a new coach, as Melrose had to implement a new system and integrate 14 new players into the lineup.

Tocchet is a former NHL player with over 400 goals and a well-respected assistant coach with prior stops in Colorado and Phoenix. Lawton praised his approach to teaching hockey in a very structured and organized manner. But Tocchet does come with some baggage; he pleaded guilty to running a sports gambling ring in 2007.

Lawton wants to meet with the players to give them a direct explanation on the coaching change and discuss the future direction of the team’s management group.

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